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Wednesday, 3 July 1901
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Senator EWING (Western Australia) - . Senator McGregor has suggested that when we undertake to strike out a portion of a clause we should be prepared to build up. That is perfectly true, no doubt, if building up is necessary. But surely we have defined the position of the Postmaster-General in a previous clause. We have said that when he is dealing with the owners of vessels, or railways, or tramways, he is to enter into contracts for the carriage of mails. The rates that are to be charged are to be the outcome of a mutual agreement, and failing that mutual agreement, arbitration. Therefore, independent of this clause, we have a method of ascertaining the amount to be paid to persons for the carriage of mails.

Senator Major Gould - That only deals with a certain class of contracts.

Senator Harney - Clause 15 deals with all contracts by land or sea.

Senator EWING - The railways are dealt with in a subsequent clause.

Senator Glassey - That does not apply to the case we are discussing.

Senator EWING - Senator Harney has suggested that we must take up one position or the other - that either the Minister is going to treat with the person as a contractor, or he is going to treat with him as an arbitrary individual fixing the rates at which the mails are to becarried. If this provision is passed, the fixing and the gazetting of the rates give them the force of law, and, therefore, anybody who carries mails has to carry them at those rates. The Minister has given his regulations the force of law, and the moment he forms and gazettes a regulation as to the rate to be charged, it becomes the law just as effectually as if it were now put in this Bill. Then in a previous clause we say that he has to contract with the owners, and, failing a contract, he has to go to arbitration and get to a satisfactory solution.

Senator Millen - There is no arbitration in the case of a vessel, I think.

Senator Drake - No ; railways and private railways.

Senator EWING - I think that for the carriage of mails by land or sea the Minister has to enter into a contract, and he proposes, if it is not already in, to add some words' with regard to arbitration. The clause to which I refer was postponed in order to allow of an addition dealing with arbitration in the event of disagreement, the same as applies to a disagreement between the Minister and the railway authority. There are two clauses providing that the method of payment and the rate of payment shall be the outcome of an agreement, and, failing an agreement, of arbitration. And yet here we are going to fix rates which will have the force of law, and which will really have the effect of overloading the provisions of the clause we have passed. We must define our position. Surely either we are going to treat the owners of these railways, including State railways, and the owners of steam-ships in an arbitrary manner, and say "You shall carry for the rates which we say are reasonable," or we must treat them as contracts. Which are we going to do? We have already decided to treat them as contracts, and if wepass this clause giving the PostmasterGeneral the power to make regu lations, we shall absolutely rob the previous clauses of the whole of their effect, and make him the person who is to decide the rates at which this work shall be done.

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